Dinesh Chandimal had consumed 31 balls for his five runs. Then a mindless slog off Axar Patel ended his innings. Sri Lanka were 73 for three after 15 overs and another humiliating defeat loomed. Angelo Mathews’s countenance gives away very little about what’s going through his mind. Deep inside, however, he must have been very angry. The Lankan skipper taught his team mates the virtue of application.
Even before this game, the captain was Sri Lanka’s highest scorer in this series with 200 runs from four matches. An unbeaten 139 off 116 balls at the JSCA International Stadium here on Sunday took his tally to the top of the series heap. It was his maiden ODI hundred and during the process, he also became the first batsman to score 1,000 runs (1,026 runs in 25 matches) this calendar year.
His innings, however, had a lot more significance than some arid statistical highlights. It helped his team salvage some pride before returning home. Mathews was watchful to start with and took seven balls to score his first runs. He was looking to forge a partnership with Mahela Jayawardene. The latter played some rollicking shots and looked set for a big one. But Ravichandran Ashwin made one turn viciously from good length to remove the veteran. Things became more difficult for the visitors.
Mathews, though, hung on. He was ready to bide his time at the crease. His first four came after 25 balls, a paddle sweep off Ashwin to the fine leg boundary. Lahiru Thirimanne’s solidity at the other end helped both grow in confidence.
The batting powerplay was taken in the 36th over, but Mathews still waited for his moment. Karn Sharma gifted him a half-volley in the 40th over and Mathews made room to dispatch it over the cover fence. It was the first of his 10 sixes which brought up his half-century in 76 balls. More importantly, it was the beginning of the carnage. Rayudu came to bowl the 41st over. Mathews brought out the reverse sweep to welcome him with a boundary. A massive six followed as he stepped down the pitch and hit it over long-on. Then there was another one in the next ball which landed in the second tier. Twenty runs came from that over.
Sharma was treated with contempt in the 46th over. First a six over long-on, then another one over deep mid-wicket followed by a four past fine leg took him to 96. Two doubles in the next over off Dhawal Kulkarni saw him reach the milestone in 102 balls. It took 138 matches for the 27-year-old to score his first century in this format. He could have achieved it in Ahmedabad but a middle-order collapse had left him stranded on 92. Today he got there and it was a special effort.